Glossary of Terms

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  K  L  M  O  P  R  S  T  U  V  Z 

A

Abortion - The termination of pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation.
spontaneous - A naturally occurring pregnancy loss in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
habitual -Three or more spontaneous abortions in a row.
incomplete -An abortion accompanied by pain and bleeding that does not eliminate all embryonic and fetal tissue inside the uterus.
missed -The loss of a fetus without any noticeable symptoms, or a loss without complete elimination of the fetus. A D&C is required to complete the abortion.
therapeutic -The termination of a pregnancy when the mother’s health is threatened.
threatened -Spotting and/or cramping that occurs within the first 20 weeks of gestation that indicates a miscarriage might occur.
ACTH - Hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the adrenal gland. Abnormal levels are sometimes associated with infertility.
Adhesion - Bands of scar tissue in the abdominal area and reproductive organs that can impact fertility; adhesions often appear with endometriosis.
Adrenal Androgens - Male hormones produced by the adrenal gland that are sometimes elevated in women with PCOS, causing fertility problems.
Amenorrhea - The absence of menstruation for six months or more
primary - Having never menstruated by the age of 16
secondary - The absence of menstruation for three months or more in women who have had menstrual cycles in the past.
American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) - Multidisciplinary group of fertility and reproductive specialists that teach, do research on and advocate for reproductive medicine.
Amniocentesis - Checking for abnormalities of the fetus by using a needle to extract amniotic fluid from the womb.
Andrologist - A doctor that specializes in the area of male health, particularly male fertility and reproductive health.
Anovulation - Lack of ovulation that can occur with or without menstruation
Antibodies - Substances made by males and females that attack foreign matter and help prevent infection; may also cause infertility in certain cases.
Artificial Insemination (AI) - The injection of sperm directly into a female’s vagina, cervix or uterus, for fertilization of the egg.
Asherman's Syndrome - A condition that occurs when scar tissue forms inside the uterus, possibly leading to infertility or menstrual irregularities.
Aspiration - The suctioning of fluid or tissue from the body, usually with a needle or tube.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) - Fertility treatments that include the handling of both the egg and the sperm; includes IUI, IVF, GIFT, and ZIFT.
Assisted hatching - A procedure used to break down the thick outer wall of an embryo, to facilitate implantation.
Asthenozoospermia - Sperm that are of poor quality due to reduced motility.
Azoospermia - The absence of sperm in semen that is sometimes caused by blockages.

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B

Basal Body Temperature (BBT) - Temperature that is taken the first thing in the morning after awakening and that rises and falls due to changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.
Beta hCG Test - A blood test that measures levels of hCG in early pregnancy.
Bicornuate uterus - An abnormality in the structure of the uterus that can sometimes be fixed with surgery; can cause problems with fertility.
Blighted ovum (egg) - A fertilized egg that implants itself in the uterus but does not develop properly.
Bromocriptine (Parlodel) - A medication that treats pituitary tumors and reduces prolactin levels.

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C

Canceled cycle - Stopping an ART cycle due to problems with follicle development, lack of fertilization, or other issues.
Candidiasis - An infection sometimes found in the vagina that is caused by a fungus and can cause burning, itching and discomfort.
Complete Blood Count (CBC) - A blood test that measures red and white blood cells, hemoglobin and other factors to diagnose and assess potential disease.
Cervical mucus - Mucus produced by the cervix that changes consistency during a woman’s monthly cycle.
Cervical smear - A cellular sample that is extracted from the cervix and examined for cancer or other abnormalities.
Cervix - A one-inch long canal located above the vagina at the lower end of the uterus through which blood passes during menstruation, sperm travels into to reach the fallopian tubes, and the baby passes through during labor.
Cervix, incompetent - The cervix opens during pregnancy before the baby is developed and labor is ready to begins.
Chemical pregnancy - This accounts for most miscarriages as the egg implants itself but the embryo doesn’t develop.
Chocolate cyst - Ovarian cysts containing old blood that has turned brown.
Chromosome - Structures that hold our genetic material.
Cilia - Hair like structures that help the egg move inside the fallopian tubes
Clinical pregnancy - A pregnancy that is confirmed with a clinical intervention like an ultrasound.
Clomiphene citrate - A medication that causes a surge of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland and stimulates ovulation to boost fertility.
Corpus luteum - Endocrine tissue that secretes progesterone after ovulation and during pregnancy to boost implantation.
Cryopreservation - Preserving eggs, embryos, and sperm in a controlled freezing environment for fertility treatment and ART.
Cushing's syndrome - An excess of corticosteroids, like cortisol that can affect fertility and cause weight gain, male sex characteristics and other symptoms in women.
Cycle - A round of fertility treatment that takes about a month between start and completion.
Cyst - A sac surrounded by a membrane; may or may not cause health problems.

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D

Dilation and Curettage (D&C) - A procedure to dilate the cervix and scrape away the uterine lining.
Danazol (danocrine) - A synthetic androgen drug used to treat endometriosis that may cause acne, changes in breast size, weight gain, and other symptoms.
DES (Diethylstilbestrol) - A synthetic form of estrogen used between 1938-1971 to prevent miscarriage and premature birth yet since this time has been found to cause cancer and other health problems in some babies that were exposed to it in utero.
DHEAS (Dihydroepiandrosterone Sulfate)- A weak male hormone produced by the adrenal gland in some women that, in high doses, can cause excess hair growth and other symptoms.
Donor egg - Eggs donated by healthy young women that can be implanted in infertile women for pregnancy.
Donor insemination- Injection of donor sperm into a woman’s vagina, cervix, or uterus during artificial insemination
Donor embryo transfer- Donor egg and/or donor sperm are transferred to a woman’s uterus during IVF to help her get pregnant
Donor sperm - Sperm, which are donated by men who are screened for illnesses, ethnicity, build and other characteristics, and then usually frozen and held for six months or more before use in artificial insemination or ART.

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E

Ectopic pregnancy - This occurs when a fertilized egg implants in a woman’s body outside of the uterus, causing severe complications before it is terminated.
Egg - Female sex cell/female gamete, is fertilized by sperm during reproduction (also called ovum).
Egg retrieval - Use of a thin needle to remove an egg from the ovarian follicles for ICSI, IVF or other procedures.
Ejaculate - Fluid expelled by the male containing sperm-filled semen.
Embryo transfer - Placement of the fertilized egg (embryo) into the uterus using a catheter after IVF and other ART procedures.
Embryo - The early stage of the human fetus, between implantation and eight weeks of pregnancy.
Endocrinology - The study of hormones, glands, hormonal systems, and how they work together.
Endometrial biopsy - Taking a sample of the uterine lining (endometrium) to assess for abnormalities.
Endometriosis - The presence of endometrial tissue in abnormal locations such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and peritoneal cavity, which often causes painful menstruation and infertility.
Endometrium - The lining of the uterus.
Endorphins - Substances in the body that induce opiate-like feelings including pain relief.
Epididymis - A tube located near a man’s testicles that holds sperm.
Estradiol - An estrogen hormone secreted by the ovaries.
Estrogen - A female sex hormone that stimulates the development of female sex characteristics.

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F

Fallopian tube - Tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus through which the egg is released during ovulation, where it waits to be fertilized by the sperm.
Fertility specialist - Doctors that focus on diagnosing and treating infertility such as a Reproductive Endocrinologist.
Fertilization- The joining of egg and sperm for pregnancy
Fetus - Starting eight weeks after implantation, the embryo will be called a fetus until it is born.
Fibroid - A benign tumor made of muscle cells and other tissues that is found in the uterine wall (also called a myoma).
Follicle - The place in the ovary where a woman’s egg grows and develops each month. During ovulation the follicle releases the egg into the fallopian tube.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)- A hormone from the pituitary gland that stimulates ovarian follicles to grow
Follicular phase - The first phase of the menstrual cycle, starting with day 1 when menstrual bleeding begins and ovarian follicles start to develop.
Follicular fluid - Fluid that houses the egg inside of the ovarian follicles.

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G

Gamete - A mature sex cell, the egg and the sperm.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) - A procedure where a female’s eggs are extracted, mixed with sperm, and then placed in the fallopian tubes where fertilization can occur.
Gestation- The period of time between fertilization/conception and the birth of a baby
Gonad - Reproductive glands that produce sex cells (eggs and sperm) and hormones; in women, the ovaries, and in males, the testes.
Gonadotropin - Hormones used during ovulation induction to encourage follicular and egg development.
Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) - The hypothalamus secretes this hormone, stimulating the release of gonadotropins (LH and FSH), which stimulate the testicles or ovaries.

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H

Hamster test - A male’s sperm are mixed with hamster eggs in a dish and the sperm observed to see how many penetrate the egg (also called Sperm Penetration Assay or SPA).
Hirsutism - A condition that often occurs with PCOS where women have excess body and facial hair, due to high levels of androgens.
Hormonal assay - Hormone test that checks for levels of hormones like FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), DHEA S (dehydroepiandresterone), prolactin and progesterone.
Hormone - Chemicals produced in one organ of the body that regulates activities of other organs.
Hostile mucus - Cervical mucus that impedes the travel of sperm into the fallopian tubes for fertilization.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) - In early pregnancy this hormone helps to maintain progesterone levels; it is sometimes used to trigger ovulation.
Human menopausal gonadotropin (HMG) - This hormone is used to stimulate ovulation and is made of LH and FSH.
Hydrocele - Fluid accumulation in the scrotum.
Hyperprolactinemia - High amounts of prolactin in the blood that can suppress LH and FSH production, affecting male and female fertility.
Hyperstimulation (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome - OHSS) - A serious complication that occurs with medically induced ovulation where the ovaries swell and mild to severe side effects may occur.
Hyperthyroidism - Excessive activity of the thyroid that can affect female ovulation and fertility.
Hypoestrogenic - Estrogen levels that are lower than normal.
Hypospermatogenesis - The production of sperm in low numbers.
Hypothalamus - The part of the brain that secretes GnRH, which enables the release of LH and FSH to stimulate the ovaries and testes.
Hypothyroidism - The thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to a slow metabolism and fatigue, and impaired fertility.
Hysterectomy - The partial or total removal of the uterus, ovaries and /or fallopian tubes that can lead to sterility.
Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) - An X-ray examination using a special dye injected into the uterus to observe the uterus and fallopian tubes.
Hysteroscope- A device, similar to a laparoscope that allows for interior visual exam of the cervix and uterus

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I

Immature sperm (germinal cell) - Sperm that are not fully mature and that have low motility.
Implantation - After fertilization, the egg starts to embed into the uterine lining where it starts to develop as an embryo.
Impotence - A situation where a man cannot have erections or ejaculate semen.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) - Meaning "in glass," this assisted reproductive technology (ART) process involves ovulation induction, extraction of the egg from the ovary, and combining the egg with the sperm outside of the female’s body for fertilization.
Infertility - For women under 35, this means the inability to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term when trying to conceive one year, and for women over 35, infertility is the inability to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term when trying to conceive for six months.
Injectables - Fertility medications (usually ovulation induction medications) that are injected.
Insemination- The introduction of sperm into a woman’s body for fertilization
Intracervical Insemination (ICI) - Artificial insemination procedure where sperm are injected directly into a woman’s cervix with a syringe and catheter.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) - The injection of a single sperm into an egg, usually used with IVF.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) - Sperm are collected and washed to prepare for insemination directly into a woman’s uterus with a catheter and syringe.

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K

Karyotyping - A test analyzing chromosomes for potential genetic abnormalities.
Klinefelter's Syndrome - When a male is born with two X and one Y chromosome, causing possible feminine qualities and infertility.

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L

Laparoscope- a telescopic instrument that is inserted into a small incision in the abdomen, for viewing of the pelvis, ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes
Laparotomy - Surgery that opens the abdominal area to treat a variety of issues, including removing adhesions and repairing tubes.
Leydig cell - Cell in the testes that produces male hormones, including testosterone, and is stimulated by LH from the pituitary gland.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) - A hormone that stimulates the ovary to release an egg during ovulation and also stimulates testosterone production in males.
LH surge - A surge of LH followed by the release of an egg from a follicle in the ovaries.
Luteal phase - After ovulation, the final phase of the menstrual cycle that ends with pregnancy or menses. This phase often lasts between 12-14 days.
Luteal phase defect (or deficiency) (LPD) - Often due to a short luteal phase, the uterus will not be able to sustain a pregnancy due to abnormal hormone levels. May cause recurrent miscarriages.

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M

Male factor infertility - Infertility due to male health or anatomic reasons.
Menorrhagia - Very heavy menstrual flow, or menses that lasts longer than normal.
Menstruation - Monthly cycle of bleeding where the uterine lining is shed after a woman fails to achieve pregnancy (also called menses, menstrual cycle).
Metrorrhagia - Appearance of bleeding or spotting in the middle of the menstrual cycle.
Micromanipulation - Procedure where a microscopic single sperm is injected into an egg, as with ICSI.
Miscarriage - Spontaneous expulsion of the embryo or fetus from the uterus in the first 20 weeks gestation, which occurs in about 20% of pregnancies (also called abortion).
Mittleschmerz - Occurring around ovulation, some women notice this as a slight pain or cramping low in the abdomen.
Myomectomy - The surgical removal of benign fibroid tumors from the uterine wall.

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O

Oligmenorrhea - Menstrual periods occurring less frequently than normal.
Oligospermia - Low levels of sperm in the semen.
Oocyte - The female sex cell that is produced in the ovaries (also see egg, ovum, gamete).
Oocyte retrieval - When a needle is inserted into the ovarian follicles to extract eggs during surgery.
Ovarian failure - A situation where levels of FSH in the blood are elevated, usually indicating a lack of ovarian response to FSH stimulation.
Ovarian cyst - A fluid-filled sac in the ovary that can vary in size; may or may not be problematic, but can sometimes cause pain and can be an indicator of PCOS if there are multiple cysts.
Ovary - Female sex glands that produce eggs (ova) and female hormones (estrogen and progesterone).
Ovulation - When the ovary releases a mature egg in the middle of the menstrual cycle, often around day 14.
Ovulation induction - Use of a group of medications (fertility drugs) to improve hormone levels and/or boost the development and release of eggs during fertility treatment.
Ovulatory failure (anovulation) - Lack of ovulation during the menstrual cycle (no egg is released for fertilization).
Ovulatory phase - Occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle; the release of the egg for fertilization.
Ovum- Female sex cell that contains genetic material for the embryo (also called egg, gamete)

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P

Pap test - A test to detect abnormal (cancerous) cells in the cervix.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - Infection within the pelvis that can cause fever, pain and possibly infertility and may lead to the development of scar tissue and/or tubal problems.
Pituitary gland - A gland located at the base of the brain known as the “master gland of the endocrine system” that releases and regulates the body’s hormones.
Placenta - This organ connects the fetus to the uterus via the umbilical cord, providing nutrients and oxygen for development.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS or "Stein Leventhal Syndrome") - A hormonal disturbance linked to infrequent ovulation that may include symptoms like menstrual problems, weight gain, pain, infertility, and hair/skin problems.
Post coital test (PCT) - A test done several hours after intercourse to look for the presence of healthy, active sperm, fertile-quality cervical mucus, and healthy sperm-mucus interaction.
Premature ovarian failure (POF) - A syndrome associated with high levels of gonadotropins and low levels of estrogen, often causing menstruation to end before age 40.
Primary Infertility - Infertility in couples that have never had a successful pregnancy or in couples that have gotten pregnant but never had a live birth.
Progesterone - The corpus luteum in the ovary produces this hormone that prepares the uterus for pregnancy after ovulation.
Prolactin - A hormone that helps women to make breastmilk after childbirth and in women that are not nursing, abnormal levels can hinder ovulation, possibly causing infertility.
Pronuclear stage tubal transfer (PROST) (ZIFT) - An assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure where eggs are retrieved, fertilized by sperm in vitro and then transferred to the woman’s body before the cells divide.
Prostaglandins - These hormone-like substances are found in both men and women while sperm washing techniques remove prostaglandins during artificial insemination to reduce cramping in the woman’s body.
Prostate gland - A male gland circling the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body.

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R

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss - Refers to two or more failed pregnancies, especially if they happen successively.
Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) - Doctors trained in obstetrics and gynecology that are board certified in reproductive endocrinology - the study of fertility, glands and hormones.
Retrograde Ejaculation - When the semen is ejaculated, it travels backwards into the bladder due to a problem with the sphincter muscle
Rh Factor - A protein found in red blood cells in most people, yet if the fetus has Rh factor in the blood but the mother does not, the mother’s body will produce antibodies that start to attack red blood cells in the fetus.

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S

Salpingectomy - The removal of the fallopian tubes which is done during surgery.
Scrotum - The sac of skin on the external genitalia of the male that contains the testes.
Secondary infertility - Infertility that occurs after a couple have had a successful pregnancy and/or live birth.
Secondary sex characteristics - Physical characteristics such as breasts, facial and body hair, voice changes and other characteristics that appear during puberty, distinguishing males from females.
Semen - A liquid medium that carries the male’s sperm outside of his body and protects and nourishes the sperm.
Semen analysis - Examination of semen under a microscope to assess sperm count, movement (motility), and the size and shape of the sperm.
Sonogram (ultrasound) - These are high-frequency sound waves used to monitor pregnancy and observe images of internal body parts to detect any abnormalities.
Sperm penetration assay (SPA) - A test usually done before IVF where a man’s sperm are mixed with hamster eggs to see how many sperm penetrate the egg (also called hamster test).
Sperm - Male sex cell carried in semen that holds genetic information from the male (also called gamete).
Sperm Bank - At a sperm bank, sperm are kept frozen in liquid nitrate to be thawed later for use in insemination and ART procedures.
Sperm motility - Movement of sperm, and good motility is a sign of male fertility.
Sperm morphology - Refers to the size and shape of the sperm and abnormal sperm morphology can indicate male factor infertility.
Sperm maturation - Sperm take 90 days to fully mature as they grow and attain better motility for fertilization.
Sperm penetration - Refers to the ability of a sperm to penetrate an egg during fertilization.
Sperm wash - Washing of sperm, a procedure done for artificial insemination, removes toxic chemicals, reducing cramping and allergic reactions in females after artificial insemination.
Sterility - A condition where an individual is completely unable to conceive.
Stillbirth - The loss of a fetus between 20 weeks gestation and birth.
Superovulatio - The use of fertility drugs to stimulate a woman to release multiple eggs (also called controlled ovarian hyperstimulation or COH).
Surrogate mother- A woman who gets pregnant and gives birth for a couple who are infertile.

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T

Testicles - Pair of male reproductive glands that produce testosterone and sperm.
Testicular/epididymal sperm aspiration (TESA) - Sperm are extracted from the testis or epididymis with a needle.
Testosterone - A male sex hormone necessary for the development of male secondary sex characteristics, sex drive and sperm development.
TET (tubal embryo transfer) - A procedure that occurs after cell division of a fertilized egg when the egg is then placed directly into the fallopian tubes.
Tubal Ligation - A permanent form of female birth control where the fallopian tubes are cut or tied, making the woman sterile.
Turner's syndrome - A condition where a female has one X-chromosome and no Y-chromosomes, resulting in limited height, underdeveloped ovaries, lack of ovulation and infertility.

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U

Ultrasound - High-frequency sound waves used to monitor pregnancy and observe images of internal body parts to detect any abnormalities (also called sonogram).
Unexplained Infertility - When no reason or cause can be found for a couple’s infertility problems.
Unicornuate uterus - Uterine abnormality characterized by a smaller size and a single horn shape in the uterus that can cause discomfort and infertility.
Urethra - The tube that carries urine outside of the body in males and females, and in males this tube also carries semen outside of the body.
Urologist - A doctor who specializes in urinary and urogenital medicine.
Uterine tube- One of two tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus through which the egg is released during ovulation, where it waits to be fertilized (also called fallopian tube)
Uterus - A muscular organ that contains, protects and nourishes the embryo and fetus during pregnancy (also called womb).

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V

Vaginal ultrasound - Placing a probe into the vagina and using sound waves to view the follicles, ovaries, eggs, fetus, and other internal organs.
Vaginitis - Inflammation of the vagina caused by a fungal or bacterial infection and a condition that may cause irritation and discharge.
Varicocele - Varicose veins found in the scrotum that cause an abnormal flow of blood in the male genitalia and can sometimes lead to male infertility.
Vasectomy - A permanent form of male birth control where the vas deferens is blocked or cut, which prevents the release of sperm in the semen.
Vasectomy Reversal - A surgical procedure to reconnect the vas deferens after a vasectomy that restores fertility in many cases.
Venereal disease - Sexually transmitted infections including Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and others that can cause illness and infertility.

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Z

Zygote - The early stage of the fertilized egg before it divides.
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) - An ART procedure where a fertilized egg is transferred into the fallopian tube one day after fertilization.

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